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5 Dec

Figuring out how to get rhinestones off an old gown is an interesting challenge.  There don’t seem to be any instructions anywhere on how to remove jewel glue and no ideas even for a solvent that would work.  The only person I knew who had tried to de-jewel a gown had soaked pieces of the dress in water and laboriously picked them off.  Sounds too hard to me!

But as I slowly cut the Disney Princess into strips of stones, I noticed that small stones would almost fall off if the fabric was pulled tightly. It only works well for stones under 20 ss. Larger ones will come off, but the foil backing almost always pulls away.  Fine if you want clear stones, but keeping the AB effect is nice.

So here is the strip of fabric with small stones:


Give the strip a bit of stretch:


And a bit more:


And more:


Be careful not to break it (but sometimes it will anyway):


If you are lucky, the stones will just pop right off the fabric:


But even if they don’t, you can now run a thumbnail along the strip and the rest will tumble off.

I did this in front of the TV with the strips in a giant plastic mixing bowl to catch the stones.  They do tend to fly around, so the bowl worked well as a catching device. Perfect for watching ballroom videos on YouTube.  I recommend some Strictly Come Dancing – the UK version (original) of Dancing With the Stars.

The process with larger stones will be coming along soon.


DIY hair ornament – Claire’s hair jewelry hack

26 Jul

Ah, the old “take the photos and never do the blog post trick, eh?”  I took these in May and just found them following some hair ornament conversation on Pattern Review.  I wanted a bigger ornament for several reasons – to cover the insertion point of the hair piece and any messy hairdressing I may have done there, to make adding the ornament quicker and to make it easier to put on and take off.

Here’s what you need: an inexpensive hair comb like this one from Claires  , some coordinating hair swirls  or other lovely bits of whatever, bathtub caulk that dries clear, scissors, pliers, bag to cover your kitchen cutting board, heavy powermesh fabric or something similar – pleather might work, plastic knife or popsicle stick for spreading, elegant wig stand (mine is a yogurt tub holding my pressing ham (covered in plastic) and it works quite well, iPad, bluetooth speakers to listen to Stuff You Should Know and other education podcasts while working.



After deciding the general shape and cutting several layers of power mesh, spread the tub caulk on the mesh as evenly as possible.  Let it dry for at least several hours.

Cut the little corkscrew backs off of the individual ornaments and arrange them on the backing.  Secure them with globs of caulking and allow to dry. Trim the backing when it is all dry.


Put a line of caulking on the comb and set the new piece in place.


I suspect I supported this in some ingenious way until it dried.  Finished piece with the hair piece.  No photos yet – hope to get them at the next competition!


One little weird glitch is that the caulking reacted with the metal and it is a lovely turquoise now.  I would perhaps give the comb a few coats of clear nail polish to prevent that next time.

How to Build a Yoga Bolster – Stuffing! Part Two

14 Jan

I like to stuff my bolsters with blankets for a couple of reasons – one is that blankets are much easier to come by than the cotton “felt” batting used commercially and the other is that they can be taken out and washed, if necessary.  I also have a fair amount of fabric stashed inside of bolsters:-)

Most blankets are between 80 and 90″ long, which makes them a good size for our bolsters.  They do not have to be exactly 90″.  There is some wiggle room.  I folded this one in 3, so it is a nice 30″ width.  It is a rather awful, cheap acrylic, which turns out to be ideal for a bolster because it rolls well and is lighter than a wool blanket. I pick them up at thrift stores for $5 or so and run them through the wash a couple of times, but have found them in stores like Walmart for not much more.


The next blanket in worked better folded length-wise:


Pretty pink!  Time to start rolling:


In truth, I did add one more small blanket to this to make it fat enough.  It will all depend on the size of the blankets.  Two king-sized blankets may be enough.  Sometimes a blanket must be cut in half to make it fit.  Another good reason to use the acrylics.  They won’t ravel.

Finished roll:


Slide the blanket roll into the liner:


Tie the knot:


Slide the open end into the cover. Mr. Bolster has a lovely hat!



Tie it up.  Now the circle that was sewed into the liner shows through the opening:


Fully  functional bolster:


Stuffing – Part Two (B)

I don’t have any of the studio’s covers and liners here, so I can’t show you that until our group stuffing day.  Here is the bale of cotton we work with:


You can see that it is nearly as tall as the patio table.  The massive plastic bag the bales come in is my pattern tracing medium.  Since we use three bales per batch of bolsters, more or less, I get a lot of tracing plastic!  The heavy brown kraft paper is also great stuff, but I haven’t found a perfect use for it yet.

A partly used bale.  It is unbleached cotton, still with lots of impurities and grit in it.  This stuff is often used in upholstery, under the cover and over a foam block to give the cushy factor.


It is simply rolled and inserted into the liners exactly like the blankets.  Photos will be posted when we have our stuffing party!

How to Build a Yoga Bolster. Part 1

13 Jan

You will need: 2 pieces of fabric, each 30″ square – one for the lining and one for the cover.  2 circles of fabric, about 9 5/8th in diameter.  A dinner plate or pot lid can make good templates, otherwise, you need to use a compass or string and pencil version of circle drawing apparatus.  Make both circles from the cover fabric.


Cording, string or a self-made drawstring.  The black one in the photo is made from the lining fabric.


Serge or sew 1/2″ seams on one side of each of the squares so you have two tubes. Each tube will have two open ends.  Be sure these seams are secure as it will take a lot of strain.  Zig zag to finish the seams if you don’t have a serger.


Quarter the circles by folding in half and marking the quarters.


Quarter the tubes and pin at the marks.  Finish pinning the circles in place, easing the fabric as needed. Sew/serge/finish.


Turn under the open ends 1/4″ all the way around, then turn under again 5/8″


Leave a good gap in the casing and securely finish the beginning and ending of the stitching.


Insert the ties.


Now you have two long bags with drawstrings.  Next up – stuffing!

Did you do your own hair? Yes!

17 Mar

And here’s how it works:  Start with 2 key ingredients.  Clothing that can be removed without messing up the hair when it is done, and preferably not fresh, clean hair.  It works okay on clean hair because the products are so good these days, but it is easier with second day hair.


Assemble your tools.  Brush, fine toothed comb, hair spray, hair gel, freeze spray, hair dryer, pony tail elastics, hair piece, hair net, hair pins (large and small), hand mirror, magnifying mirror, hair ornaments, crystals, bent nose tweezers, medicine syringe.  Preferably in a space with good light and a big countertop.  If you are at a comp, the odds are pretty poor that you will get the last two!


Make your hair parts.  You need to make them much bigger or deeper than you do for regular hair days.  I especially need the side part much farther to the side to make a nice face shape.


This is a good time to use some regular hair spray or other styling product.  I use a strong hold mousse – lots.  Then make your ponytail.  For my hair, I need to put it really, really high on my head.  It needs to show on the top of my head to add visual height.  And in fact, when we watch European comps, we see more hair styles high on the ladies heads and not so much of the low bun down by the neck.  It is looking a bit old fashioned though a low bun on the right side of the head is also trendy.  So for shorter hair, you make a ponytail with as much hair as you can gather up.  It will look messy.


Stick a hair net on it and pin it down so nothing comes flying out on the dance floor.  Add a second ponytail (or two!  It depends on your hair length)  and pin it up towards the first one.  It will still look messy!


Now for the gooey goodness.  Get your heavy duty Got2B hair glue and use it liberally on all the bits that didn’t get into the ponytail.  Comb it into place then use your hand or comb with the hair dryer (set on high heat, low air) to smooth it into place while you dry it.  If you have a helper, this is a good time to get help.  There will be little bits that won’t go if you have unruly hair like mine, so you need to add pins.  They really don’t show on the dance floor, but nice to use as few as possible.


Now the hair piece.  Pin it securely in place making sure the big pins go through the ponytail and also make sure they don’t slide back out.  If you get too much hair in a pin, it will sometimes back itself  out, so check a few times.  It helps to think of pinning down towards your head, then across.  Give your head a couple of serious tango flicks to make sure it is secure.  Practice your tango face in the mirror.  Bangs are next.


More gooey goodness here.  Use your goop liberally and dry your hands a LOT!  If the hair parts dry out, just add some water to revive them.  This is where you get to use your creativity and sculpt something that looks nice, stays in place and flatters your face shape.  I have a long, narrow face, so having a side part with something on my forehead helps round it out a bit. Once I got the curlicues to my liking, I added a dab of glue to stick them to my forehead.  Yes I did!


Yes, the photographer was in the midst of March Madness!

Now is a good point to spray the heck out of the whole style with your magic freeze spray, smooth out the little bits that are sticking out and start to get it tidier.  Then decorate!


The hair ornament got a good glop of glue as well as a few pins over the thin arms.  Honestly, I may not use this one again as I realized it would be horrible to sleep in and impossible to get out without wrecking the hair.  So it will be for one day comps if I decide to use it.

The crystals were MUCH easier to do with my new system.  It is a small syringe (a kid’s medicine one would work really well) and my bent nose tweezers from my sewing room.  I could squeeze out the perfect amount of glue onto the stone as I held it in the tweezers, then place the stone quite precisely.  Some people use white school glue to put their crystals on their face, but I have found the hair glue works really well for me.


And did I get a final shot with finished makeup?  Of course not!  I hope someone at the dance got one.  It was a our very small club’s closed comp and we placed in every dance, winning the Foxtrot.  A lot of work for ten minutes of dancing, but a good opportunity to get the photos for this tutorial!

Packing Anxiety!

24 Jul

I hate packing.  I am always afraid I will forget some key, irreplaceable item.  I am working on lists now, but to be honest, I am still afraid I will forget to put the key item on my list or will check it off as packed, when in fact it isn’t, which I did  on our last trip.  If I pack too soon, I can’t remember what I have packed.  If I pack too late, I am rushed and even more freaked out.  Anyway, I am working on it and it is getting better, I think.  It is nice that I can afford to go and buy items I have forgotten, like the time I realized half way to a competition that I had forgotten mascara.  You don’t want to be at a ballroom comp without mascara!  So we stopped and got mascara, which made a nice addition to the mascara I already had in my makeup bag…. Oh well…

So some packing starts today, but not too much.  Let’s just get the gowns into their bags and that will be done.  And how exactly does one go about this? Because gowns, even for a short person like me are big!

It is worse than carrying a big load of laundry because of all the slippery fabrics. You get a handle on the crinolines and a second later are tripping on a chiffon float!

First step: a nice big clear space with room to hold your garment bag and gown.  They don’t have to be colour co-ordinated, but it is nice:-)  Don’t know what on earth the blue clip is doing in there.  Tsk!

The floor works, but I prefer the bed.  At least today, the covers are up and it looks tidy for a few minutes!  I have the gown, garment bag and two wire clips.  I can never remember where my dear mother-in-law gets them, but they are the best.  Thanks, Marg!  You can also use large safety pins, clothes pins, bulldog paper clips, etc.  I hate dress hanger loops sewn into gowns (or anything, for that matter) because they always find their way to the surface exactly when they are unwanted.  I have however, seen them sewn into the waist or the underarm of a gown, but I would be checking to make sure there was no way they could make themselves a nuisance if you decide to go that way.

Step 2: Attach your gown to the hanger.

Oh – a word on hangers.  In our vast experience we have found that sturdy wooden hangers are the best.  I love the thicker plastic ones with gripper to hold things on, but they are too thick to put up multiple hangers in the car.  The thin ones that are flocked and look lovely are fine for the tail suit (I think they are too flimsy, but the guy who carries and wears the suit says they are fine.) but are waaaaay to flimsy and floppy to hold a gown.  This one, using the ultra-accurate bathroom scale method, weighs about 6 lbs. (2.7 kg.) so it needs good support.  I put the clips very close to the hanger between the “shoulder” of the hanger and the bottom rail.  Quick, simple and secure.  When dressing, I just clip them onto the inside of the garment bag so they are easy to grab when I am changing.

Step 3: Hanger into bag.

Just get the hanger in place, then

Step4: Stuff that gown!

Just like a big down sleeping bag, you just keep smooshing and shoving the darn thing until it is in the bag enough to nearly zip up.

Next: added extras.

I have already attached my body suit into the gown and most gowns already have them built in, but if you have any other dedicated undergarments that you know you will wear in the comp but won’t want to be wearing the rest of the day/night, this is a good time to put them in the garment bag.  In this case, it is just the pantyhose, but I will also be making  a bag for the jewelry to go with the gown and I will tell you why.

Putting things in the shoe bag seems like it will work, but the shoe bag often gets left at the seat in the ballroom as a place-saver.  The makeup bag is also a “perfect” spot for nylons and jewelry except for the times you stay in the competition hotel and decide you can leave your bag upstairs as you have already done your makeup, hair, contacts, lashes etc. in the room.  Confession time – I have also left my bag containing important costume pieces in the car, thinking I had everything with me, and then let a friend who was competing later in the day drive away in my car.  Pink dress, black bra and VPL – not nice!  On the upside, I think Jane had a nice trip to IKEA;-)

And  you don’t need pretty pink organza bags for your stuff.  I just have more pink organza around my house than the Tooth Fairy so I figured I should use it up.  A bulldog clip and a ziplock work just fine.

Then zip the whole thing up, get a good grip on the hanger and give it all a serious shake. The crinolines will fall down toward the bottom of the bag and it will get a bit less lumpy.

Then you get the little loop at the bottom of your garment bag (which you have cleverly sewn in, right?) and loop it up over the hanger’s hook.  No loop?  A big, sturdy safety pin will work.  Or an “o” ring, a shower curtain hook, a grommet or…??? Use your imagination.  It may be one application unsuited for duct tape, though if you made it into a loop and sewed it in place, you could have a pretty special bag on your hands.

This does a couple of things.  It firstly makes the bag shorter and unless you are strictly a Latin dancer or carrying a gown for someone much shorter than you (thanks, Sweetie!) you need your full length gown to be less than full length while packing it around.  It also takes weight off the shoulders of the gown so that if you hang it up, it will not be stretching out.  And in my case it makes the whole package just the right size to nestle in with its partner in a corner of the room to await further packing instructions.

Yes, my gowns go in heaps on the floor.  Hanging them in the closet, even folded like this, squishes and compacts them too much and the come out looking flat and sad.  And who needs a sad ballgown?

Tips for rhinestones

23 May

Thanks to a Pattern Review member for asking for advice on rhinestones.  Here are a few from the top of my head.  More later.

Important tips: keep the glue bottle closed if you are not going to be using it in the next 10 minutes or so. With Aleene’s glue it does tend to start drying quickly and then you will have problems when you start again.

Re: above comment – if you do happen to leave the glue bottle unattended too long, you need to clear the dried glue (I use a sewing pin) and make sure you do a solid squeeze of the bottle onto a scrap to be sure to avoid the hard squeeze and eeek! problem. Any time it feels like you have to squeeze more to get the same amount of glue out, be careful.

Practice making glue dots before you start. It is not hard to get them about the right size even for tiny stones with a bit of practice. And glue is cheap, so it is not wasteful.

If you are doing a very heavily stoned item, do your outline first and fill in gradually. So if you happen to run out of stones, you will still be able to wear the gown while waiting for stones to arrive. I have worn a couple of my gowns before the stones were completely on and they didn’t look incomplete at all.

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